… In conversation with Meghana Abhyankar
Oral-B Pro-Health’s ‘batteesi’ campaign made my jaw drop
Circa 2013: It was supposedly the most awaited FMCG launch to happen… a challenger that would shake the No 1 brand and run tremors of fear through it… a market shaker who prompted competitors to pre-empt with their challenger launches.
As I watched the ads, my jaw dropped, and it even touched the floor. I was amazed, zapped, stupefied all at once. The first ad I saw was of an inane set of people chewing and eating, with Madhuri Dixit Nene appearing at the end, stating some lines about toothpaste that does everything. Someone who wrote the positioning will undoubtedly get an honourable mention when I teach my students about the ‘E2=0’ principle… which means ‘when you emphasise everything, you emphasise nothing’.
As a proponent of correct language, it also appalled me to hear the repeated use of the word ‘batteesi’.
In Hindi, the word is common in the context of dentures. A modified phrase ‘batteeson barkaraar’ was used for years to advertise a popular brand while rendering its ’32 intact’ promise in Hindi. For a Hindi speaking person, batteesi is a negative word, most often used for reprimanding, such as ‘batteesi mat dikhao’ (most often used to condemn those who laugh or grin irreverently). In worst cases, ‘batteesi tod denge… or batteesi bahar nikal denge’ is used to threaten someone with dire consequences.
I wondered why did the brand say, ‘India ki batteesi’.
Then I saw another ad for Oral-B toothbrush, with a jaded Madhuri Dixit Nene mouthing out her ‘Smile Officer’ role with a plasticky smile in tow… at the end, I saw a ‘buy an Oral-B brush and get a toothpaste free offer’.
Wonder what the client and its agencies were thinking as they set out to launch a superior, anticipated brand in a cut-throat and high loyalty toothpaste market through an offer. If I try hard and give P&G its due, this may be the company’s way of promoting trials. But again, does this reflect how the company has positioned itself in India. Ask anyone who knows the company beyond being just a consumer, and the individual will talk about the company’s products being premium and high market. If that is how they have built their perception across their several brands, why would they want to explore trials through a bundled offer?
All I can say with my professional experience is that this entry strategy of P&G had for sure shaken their competitors. In this case, the competitors must be shaking with uncontrolled laughter, as they need not do anything to protect their interests. P&G had done them a great favour with their launch communication, which passes by like a ship in the dark and tops it with a ‘take it home free’ offer. I hoped once again that marketers and advertisers were more innovative. Anyway, years later, I continue to wonder as Ghalib said, ‘Ya ilaahi ye majra kya hai’.
‘Nigel, Nigel, is that you?’
In the early 90s, British Airways created history with the launch of its cinema commercial.
It was one of the most brilliant and freshest ideas in advertising history. Created by advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, the commercial was a textbook case of media innovation.
Set in a Parisian boulevard, a man and woman were shown embracing each other. And then came the unexpected.
A woman in the cinema audience jumps to her feet and starts shouting to the man on the screen: “Nigel, Nigel, is that you?”
Not until “onscreen Nigel” answers back does the penny drop.
The woman was an actress who was planted in the audience by British Airways. She continued a rather emotional dialogue with Nigel, her lover, who was with another woman on a British Airways romantic break.
The commercial, if it can be called that (it was more like a new type of advertising medium), culminated with the actress storming out of the cinema. Every time that was staged, the audience spontaneously applauded.
The challenge with a cinema commercial is somehow to make sure that it will be recalled after the intense experience of the film. If this one didn’t, nothing could.
Media planning in the agency
The workflow or the various stages through which a media plan evolves within an agency differs from agency to agency and also within the agency’s account to account. The variations depend on the size of the problem and the agency’s organization and its relation with its clients. The development of almost all plans must follow a similar pattern, although the stages may be telescoped and considerations made implicit rather than being discussed at meetings.
The initial planning meeting is usually a large one and will see the involvement of senior people working on the account, and possibly the agency management. The account director, his team and creative and media planning people also take part in that meeting. In some cases, the client team may also be present. The purpose of this meeting is to formally evaluate the current progress of the brand and its market, and the plan for the period under review, usually the following financial year. The end product of the meeting should be a draft marketing strategy, which outlines the way the agency feels the brand’s target can best be achieved.
This first draft will then be thrashed out with the client, the agency being represented possibly by the management and certainly by the account team. When approved, the marketing objectives form the basis for both creative and media work.
Media owners, mind your language
Language is the most important means of communication for human beings. It has been, it is, it will be. Besides verbal languages, we have non-verbal languages such as sign language, body language and so on. Without a language, no communication is possible.
When a pharmaceutical company hires a medical representative, it makes sure that the person being hired is conversant with the doctor’s language; because a doctor cannot be convinced by a person who does not speak his language. When an engineering company hires a salesman to sell its equipment, it makes sure that the candidate selected is well-versed in the engineering industry.
How do media houses hire people to sell their advertising space or time? There are two types. One is the owner who does not want to invest in fresh people. Instead, that person looks around and finds a person who has already proved himself in the field. That recruiter is the one who believes in fresh talent (which is really a good thing considering the number of unemployed graduates around).
Unfortunately, the good intentions of the latter don’t go much further because such media owners haven’t recognised the need for professionalism.
They hire fresh graduates and push them into the field with one-line brief: ‘Go and get some ads’. These poor freshers who have had no exposure to marketing and advertising move amongst advertising professionals without any direction. Worse, they don’t even know the language of the advertising agency, media planners or the product managers at the advertises’ office.
They have been told that their job is to get some ads. So, they visit advertising agencies and advertisers and start asking, quite literally, ‘give me some ads’.
Some of the other demands which one often hears from media sellers are:
How about an ad? (just like that).
Give me an ad. My job is at stake (it happens about once a week).
You handle so many products; you must give something to us too.
I saw your ad in X. Why was it not released in our publication or channel? (occurs about once a day )
What should a media owner do to avoid getting himself the image of a “scrounger”?
First, recruit people with a marketing and advertising background. In the case of fresh graduates, please provide them with adequate training in marketing and advertising. It will eliminate to a large extent the re-occurrence of the scenario mentioned earlier. When a media seller makes a fool of himself, it reflects more on the media owner than on the person himself through sheer ignorance.
Media owners must familiarise their representative with the media planning process in an advertising agency; so, when his representative visits an ad agency, he can speak the media planners’ language.
A good media seller, in my opinion, is familiar with inter-media comparisons. He is the one who understands the target audience for his client’s products, understands the nature and seasonal patterns of various products. And above all, he is thoroughly familiar with the singular characteristics of the medium he represents.
Unless media owners understand the need for talking to advertising professionals in their language, they will continue to be in a difficult situation, as most are today.
Divided We Fall
Jingles are a form of sound branding where the sales pitch is sung to a musical tune. It is pretty popular in our country.
When I was trying to trace back its origin, I found it in Urdu poetry.
Nazeer Akbarabadi wrote various poems on various fruits, sweet meat, etc. to help its sellers sell there wares better.
All these poems were collected by legendary playwright Habeeb Tanveer and was used in his classical play Agra Bazaar.
Here I reproduce a part of his poem titled “Kakdi” to illustrate my point:
क्या प्यारी प्यारी मीठी और पतली पतलियां हैं
गन्ने की पोरियां हैं रेशम की तकलियाँ हैं
फ़रहाद की निगाहें शीरीं की हंसलियां हैं
मजनूँ की सर्द आहें लैला की ऊँगलियाँ हैं
क्या ख़ूब ककड़ियाँ हैं क्या ख़ूब ककड़ियाँ हैं
The Ad-ventures of Mr B
Padma Shri Manoj Bajpayee’s prolific career has been accentuated with numerous awards for his spectacular performances, and the latest addition is the National Film Award for Best Actor 2019 for his searing portrayal of a retired cop – Ganpat Bhonsle – in Bhonsle.
The actor extraordinaire has traversed a long and exciting journey across the medium, from television to films, and then OTT, navigating his way through each medium with deftness, and in between, he has also made interesting forays in the world of advertising to promote/endorse brands that he can relate and connect.
“I come from a middle-class rural family, and that’s my biggest identity to date. I proudly wear it as a badge of honour on my sleeves. I was born and brought up in a village, and I have always flaunted being a farmer’s son with immense pride. It is the core of my being, my work and how I choose to do what I do. I am extremely choosy about the brands. The brand has to reflect my identity, and I have to relate to the product/service and connect with the idea that the brand wants me to portray onscreen.”Manoj Bajpayee, actor
The choices that he has made further endorse his belief on all that matters to a common person – home, finance, farm, and food – and rightly so. Here’s a rundown of the brands he chose to endorse in 2021, and his reasons for doing so.
On January 25, the actor surprised his fans and followers by tweeting that he is planning to sell his Bandra home and solicited help in looking for a suitable buyer.
On the other hand, actor Rajkummar Rao posted something similar – tips on home buying in a new city.
The duo’s posts on social media invited curious reactions from all quarters, and their fun home buying and selling journey ended with the launch of Housing.com’s campaign, #YahanSearchKhatamKaro, a few days later. The social media posts were activated before the campaign’s launch and worked wonders in creating a favourable buzz around the idea.
“The campaign has highlighted the integration of technology in the real estate business. The tech-enabled services can make the process simpler and considerably ease the innumerable challenges posed by the pandemic, and reduce the burden for a consumer, be it a home buyer, seller or tenant,” states Bajpayee. The reason for choosing this campaign was his strong belief and backing for technology. “Technology can be a great enabler in any given field, and it is a tool if used wisely can do wonders in making our lives a tad easier,” says the actor.
The ad featuring actor Manoj Bajpayee on a quest to sell his house and finally find the perfect buyer by listing it on housing.com.#YahanSearchKhatamKaro
Counting on his charisma
In February, Bajpayee chose to associate with Zee Cinema and Tata Capital’s campaign, Heroes Ka Jazba, to honour the sacrifices made by India’s COVID-19 heroes. The campaign was integrated with Tata Capital’s #KarzNahiFarzBhiHai initiative of launching ‘Shubharambh’ loans with lesser EMIs, flexible and higher tenure with eased flexibility.
“The campaign had topicality and was an apt way to start 2021, with hope, happiness and a promise to help the frontline workers who kept our lives going during the tough times of the pandemic, just like heroes do,” he says, reflecting on his choice.
The brand endorsement was innovatively pegged around Bajpayee’s 2020 release Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari (playing on Zee5). Together, along with the film festival on Zee Cinema in February, it paralleled Tata Capital’s Count on Us idea. Bajpayee gave his touch to the concept by explaining how, like his character, the pandemic has been weighing us down, and had become ‘Bhari’ in our lives, adding how the Heroes Ka Jazba salutes the real-life heroes. He urged all to rise up like a hero and win against this real-life Mangal (pandemic). “The advertisement personified a promise and heralded optimism, and that’s what was needed to start life afresh back then,” he says.
Life ki har chunauti ka saamna karne wale heroes ke shubharambh mein unki madad karna humara #KarzNahiFarzBhi hai! Watch Tata Capital presents, Heroes Ka Jazba on Zee Cinema every Saturday night at 8 and begin your hero story again by applying for a Shubharambh Loan today! #CountOnUs https://bit.ly/2ZcvwQt
Bajpayee and actor Priyamani became the face of fintech platform Rupeek’s first integrated advertising campaign early in September. Together, they made the idea of availing a loan against gold an unchallenging idea for the middle-class to pursue. “I know from my own experiences that securing a loan can be a challenge for the middle-class. It has always been an emotionally taxing process. I could see the huge potential that Rupeek’s proposition brought forth. The use of technology-led hassle-free doorstep gold loan offering at the lowest interest rates could very well become a disruptor in this segment,” he emphasises. The claim of offering online gold loans to its customers with minimal documentation and the lowest interest rate of 0.69% per month clicked with Bajpayee.
The TVC featuring the actors shows them walking in avail gold loan, getting disheartened at the whole process of waiting in long queues, paying high-interest rates and going through the tedious documentation process, leaving them sorely disappointed. “I loved the idea. The advertisement highlights the struggles faced by people in availing gold loans and how the company solves the credit pain. The advertisement is for the common man and woman, who need to take pride in using their gold to access credit in a safe and tension-free manner. I chose the brand because it was a credible idea, and I could relate to the thought,” he adds.
We know that gold is precious to you. Which is why, when parting with it, you don’t deserve to wait in a long line, and be put through tedious procedures. That’s why Rupeek comes to your doorstep in 30 minutes. With Rupeek, sab kuch ghar baithe baithe ho jayega. That too, at an interest rate as low as 0.69%* per month. Ab se, #SonePeLoanRightFromHome.
In his second outing for the brand, the actor chose to endorse Mahindra’s new Farming as a Service (FaaS) business, Krish-e. For the unversed, his first brand endorsement for the Mahindra Group was for Maha Bolero Pik-Up many moons ago.
The Group recently launched the first digital video commercial for the crop advisory app early in October. It banked heavily on the brand value of Bajpayee as a son of the soil and used his credibility to its advantage by highlighting the unique benefits of the app. The reasons for choosing this brand for endorsement were obvious – a proud farmer’s son and his humble ways of returning the favour.
Elucidating it further, he says, “Technology is a great enabler. It has changed the landscape of so many sectors, including agriculture, and for good. Farmers can use this app and benefit from the unique combination of expert advisory. The app offers a fertiliser calculator, pesticide spray calculator, digital book of accounts and a diary to maintain the credit and debit details for the farmers. Krish-e has leveraged science and technology to help farmers reduce costs, increase productivity, and ultimately farmers’ income.”
Krish-e by Mahindra rightly calls itself #ChamatkarNahiYehHaiAvishkar. The agriculture app provides a personalised crop calendar for the farm by leveraging the combination of technology and farming expertise which improves the crop yield for each farmer. Krish-e app provides premium agricultural advisory services for various crops and boosts the crop yield. These Agri advisory services offer a scientific and personalized crop calendar for every farm. Krish-e is the best-in-class agriculture app providing end-to-end crop planning, i.e., land preparation, seed treatment, nutrition, and harvesting. Available in 8 popular Indian languages, this farm app is the preferred technology solution to boost your farm yields.
The actor has no qualms in admitting that he has had a fair share of struggle and strife to survive in the world of cinema. “The accolades in India and abroad that celebrate me and my roles is a profoundly humbling experience. Still, I choose to look at all of it objectively and avoid being indulgent,” he says. His cinematic journey is akin to the rigour and persistence required for small and medium businesses (SMBs) to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic world.
He chose to endorse another fintech FloBiz in October. Capitalising on the brand Bajpayee, the neo-bank for Indian SMBs aims to accelerate its outreach to the SMB sector and promote the adoption of its flagship product, myBillBook, a simple to use GST billing and accounting software. The series of ads under the core theme of #BusinessKoLeSeriously will highlight the power of digital solutions to improve the performance of SMBs and take them on a growth path. “I was impressed, once again, at the power of technology and how small and medium businesses can benefit from it. SMBs are an integral part of our economy, and the pandemic has made it paramount for businesses to go digital. FloBiz’s myBillBook is a dedicated digital tool that has immense potential to change the landscape of SMBs by accelerating its growth in the right direction,” says the actor.
The brand’s core theme remains #BusinessKoLeSeriously. The witty script has helped the actor explore his sarcastic self to the hilt and use it to his advantage to take the messaging forward.
Billing sahi na ho to payment collection ek joke ban jata hai! Jaanein kaise kar sakte hain aap sahi billing aur timely collection myBillBook ke sath. Business ko 5X badhane ke liye, myBillBook download karein aur apne business ko digital banayein! Best billing and accounting software for Small & Medium Businesses in India. Agar apne business ko lete hain seriously to abhi download karein myBillBook!
Food and friends = Fun
Food has the power to evoke memory, bring people together and transport people to places, and who wouldn’t love that. The actor relived a nostalgic moment with his offscreen friends and co-stars — Pankaj Tripathi and Nawazuddin Siddiqui — while shooting two TV commercials for BL Agro, a leading FMCG company’s signature brand, ‘Bail Kolhu’, mustard oil. The first in the series was about the actors fondly reminiscing their cinematic journey, from their nondescript villages to the city of dreams, and released in May 2021.
The second one has them recounting the smell that conjures up food memories and shows the camaraderie that Gangs of Wasseypur actors share while feasting on a lavish spread prepared in mustard oil. Khushbu Ka Yaadon Se Rishta remains the tagline and shows how the actors connect with the idea and each other.
To see these three actors sharing screen space is a truly delectable treat, and who better them to convey the message of the 50-year-old signature brand, which has become a household name over the years, much like the trio.
The lost art of marketing: Mystery Shopper Scheme
Veteran advertising legend Ayaz Peerbhoy had established MAA in 1959. I had joined MAA in 1967. In 1973, we launched Ensor Razor Blade, a TTK product, and during that exercise, I realised that Advertising is the 4th P of Marketing.
His son and my friend Bunty was handling the account, and besides media, he made me handle the promotion schemes for consumers and retailers.
We organised contests for consumers and retailers. Not many in the current generation of advertising professionals would know about “The Mystery Shopper Scheme”. Why is it run amongst retailers to promote a product at the launch?
Mystery Shopping is a process in which a person visits a retail store, restaurant, bank branch, or any such location to measure the quality of customer experience.
Many companies define detailed processes and parameters to ensure that customers have a good experience in their sales locations. Some examples are:
How customers will be greeted
What is the maximum acceptable waiting time
What is the ambience of the place
How many products should be on display, etc.
A Mystery Shopper visits the location pretending to be a customer and carefully notes things they have been asked to measure. The data is reported to the mystery shopping company, who compiles and analyses data gathered from different locations to help their clients measure and improve their customer experience.
But for our Ensor blade campaign, we used a three-pronged marketing plan for our product. Two of them involved the retailers, while one was for the consumer. Spread over 45 days, I was responsible for all three – Mystery Shopper and Display Contest for the retailers and Complete the Slogan Contest for the consumers. I remember travelling from Churchgate to Borivali in the Western suburb, and then again, went about covering all the areas in the Eastern suburb, all in a day. In a way, I covered 36 cities in one city in a day. I say so because the area around a station in Mumbai is a city itself, isn’t it? Phew! It was too much travelling, but the interactions with the people fuelled my energy levels and kept me going.
The Mystery Shopper Scheme was on for about 45 days, and since the product was new, we had given prior intimation to the dealers about the same. That one and a half month were quite crucial because it was a pre-launch activity for Ensor blade. The advertising campaign was to be launched after this period, and in the meanwhile, we got ample time to check the inventory, keep the spirits high for the retailers and build a buzz among the customers.
Sometimes the mystery shopper used to go to the shops to buy a blade. He couldn’t ask for a blade straight away. As a regular customer, he would buy many items before asking for a blade brand. If the shopkeeper gave him an Ensor blade, the mystery shopper would reveal his identity and give him ₹1000 in cash right away as a “loyalty prize.” The mystery shopper had to get an invoice signed and then hand over the money. If the shopkeeper didn’t give Ensor blade to the mystery shopper, then it was the mystery shopper’s job to enlighten the shopkeeper about the ongoing promotional scheme. It used to be a considerable amount in those days. The exercise was to promote and encourage the customers to buy the Ensor blade. It was a mutually beneficial scheme where both the mystery shopper and retailer used to benefit. Both of them stood a chance to get a handsome amount in return.
In the Display Contest, we had given some promotional material to the retailers, and we expected them to display them at their outlet. The jury used to go around the city judging the best retail outlet, and the retailer stood another chance to win a prize.
We also had a contest for the consumers. They had to complete a slogan, and in return, they used to get some goodies. But this one was difficult because I had to liaison with different government departments to ensure that this one was skill-based and had nothing to do with chance. I remember spending long hours at the government offices ensuring that there was no breach of the law, especially for the consumer contest. I had to ensure that this one didn’t fall under the ambit of the Maharashtra Lotteries (Control and Tax) and Prize Competitions (Tax) Act, 1958.
I had implemented this scheme personally in Bombay (as it was called then) because my dear friend Bunty was handling the brand, and he had immense belief in my “marketing talent.”
I can bet that not even 5% of advertising professionals would know about the Marketing Schemes because guys do not think Advertising has anything to do with Marketing. Sadly, Marketing has become more of Sales. Hence, nobody is willing to guarantee the product’s sale as a result of the advertising campaign. We, even today, ensure the achievement of marketing goals, provided the Client doesn’t interfere in our job.
MRUC, media manual and a secret between two friends
The first-ever readership survey in India was conducted in 1971, by ORG if I remember right.
After that, subsequent readership studies took five years gap to complete. Research agencies kept changing, and differences of opinion led to Roda Mehta parting ways with Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI). Roda showed her middle finger to AAAI and established “Her Own” outfit called Media Research Users Council India (MRUC India).
I recall an interesting incident with Roda.
When AAAI decided to start Media Planning Workshops, I compiled the manual for workshops. The day manual was released, my friend Bahadur Merwan, who was on the sub-committee with me, called me.
Bahadur said, “Jameel, Roda is upset with you. She may sue you.”
I asked, “Why Bahadur? What did I do?”
Bahadur replied, “You have taken page 1 to page 15 of your manual from Roda’s manual and haven’t bothered to give her credit.”
I was stunned, but very calmly, I replied, “Bahadur, please tell Roda that my source is the book called Media Planning by James Adams. I shall be grateful if Roda could tell me what her source is.”
What conversation took place between Bahadur and me after that will go to my grave.
Anyway, I am told now MRUC publishes Readership Study every year.
Whatever I could look at tells me what study being published by MRUC seems to be “Desk Research.” 😉